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I drove over 50 cars, trucks, and SUVs in 2019. Here are the features I didn't like.

Fri, 11/29/2019 - 3:28pm

Over the course of a year, I test drive a car each week, and usually a few more here and there. 

Consequently, I get to see everything the vehicle market has to offer, from mass-market sedans and pickup trucks to electric cars to supercars.

By and large, I'm pleased by the quality and choice that's on offer.

But I still amass a list of complaints along the way. Here they are:

The supercharger hump on the Chevy Corvette ZR1. The ZR1 is magnificent, but the 755-horsepower motor is so amped up with a hood-busting supercharger that it's actually hard to see the road. Oh well, what are you gonna do?

The ride quality on the Lamborghini Aventador SVJ. This is a race-track car. On public roads, it's very uncomfortable.

The interior of the Chevy Silverado. The new Silverado was redesigned for 2019, but the interior wasn't significantly upgraded.

The prop rod on the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. It didn't work.

Almost everything about the Fiat 500X. It's the worst vehicle I've driven in my career at Business Insider.

The backup and auto-parking system on the BMX X7. They sort of work, but they're rather harrowing.

The engine and transmission on the Toyota RAV4. For a crossover as popular as this, the crude throttle response and bumpy shifting was unacceptable.

The rear wing on the Honda Civic Type R. I know, I know. It's THAT kind of car. But I still don't have to like it.

As long as we're on Civic, I also dislike the tail lamp design. They look like a pair of crab craws!

Navigate on Autopilot in the Tesla Model 3. Rather than enhance the driving experience, I felt that it forced me to pay even more attention to Autopilot than I usually do.

The front end of the Bentley Bentayga. It's the front of a Bentley stuck onto the body of an Audi.

The joystick shifter on the BMW Z4. I hate joystick shifters, and the Bimmer has one of the worst.

The joystick shifter on the Cadillac XT4. Cadillac's is also annoying.

The trackpad infotainment interface in the Lexus UX hybrid SUV. Lexus has the least user-friendly system of any major auto brand.

The interior of the Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid. It screams practical plastic.

The dual infotainment screens of the Acura TLX A-Spex PMC. I used to like this feature, but I now think it's redundant.

The infotainment system in the Jaguar XE P300 and ...

... The climate controls in the Jaguar XE P300. Jaguar Land Rover still haven't gotten its game together on this front.

The infotainment system AND climate controls in the Range Rover Sport hybrid. Jaguar's corporate stablemate has the same problem.

The anima controller in the Lamborghini Urus. Yes, it's cool, but I'd rather have it on the steering wheel.

The rear end of the Toyota Supra. The rebooted Supra is great, but its, um, boot isn't.

The headlights on the Porsche Cayenne. They work on the 911, but they never have here.

The business proposition of the VW Arteon. It's a nice sedan for a market that doesn't want sedans.

The price of the Chevy Blazer. At $48,000, I thought my test vehicle was tad rich.

The dated vibe of the Nissan GT-R. The 1990s called and they want their instrument cluster back.

Credit cards from Delta, United, and other airlines offer discounts on in-flight purchases, so you can save on drinks, Wi-Fi, and more

Fri, 11/29/2019 - 2:30pm

  • The best airline credit cards offer money-saving benefits like free checked bags and annual companion tickets.
  • Many airline cards can also help you save each time you fly by offering discount on purchases of in-flight food and Wi-Fi.
  • The savings can vary by card and airline, so be sure to check the terms of your specific product before using it on board.
  • Read more personal finance coverage.

Although many airline credit cards charge annual fees of $95 or more, they usually offer travelers money-saving perks that more than make up for it. Along with sign-up bonuses potentially worth thousands of dollars, benefits like free checked bags and annual companion tickets can save you hundreds each year.

One of the most common yet overlooked benefits airline credit cards offer are discounts on in-flight purchases such as food, beverages, Wi-Fi, and even audio headsets. Unfortunately, the reason many airline credit cards offer such a benefit is that airlines have begun charging for more and more of these amenities. That makes carrying a rewards credit card a good way to deal with nickel-and-diming by airlines.

While the concept is relatively simple, as with all things related to travel rewards cards, there is a lot of fine print that can affect how much you save, and on what. Before using your card for in-flight impulse buys, be sure you know what purchases your discount applies to and how much you can expect to save.

Here are the best credit cards that offer discounts on in-flight purchases, listed by associated airline.

Keep in mind that we're focusing on the rewards and perks that make these credit cards great options, not things like interest rates and late fees, which will far outweigh the value of any points or miles. It's important to practice financial discipline when using credit cards by paying your balances in full each month, making payments on time, and only spending what you can afford to pay back.

Alaska Airlines

With the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card and the Alaska Airlines Visa® Business credit card are eligible for 20% rebates on in-flight food, beverages and Wi-Fi purchases. The discount manifests as a statement credit refund within seven days of the transaction posting date.

Even if you only use this perk a few times a year, your savings can add up and more than compensate for the personal card's $75 annual fee or the business one's $50 fee. Both cards currently offer a welcome bonus of 40,000 miles and a $121 companion fare when you spend $2,000 or more in purchases within 90 days of account opening.

American Airlines

American Airlines fields credit cards with both Citibank and Barclaycard, nearly all of which offer in-flight savings.

The most impressive, not only of American Airlines' cards, but of any airline card, is the recently revamped AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver Mastercard®. While it's not available to new applicants, if you have the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®, you might be able upgrade to it.

The Aviator Silver card does have an annual fee of $149, but one of the reasons you might still want it is that, as a cardholder, you'll be eligible for up to $25 back per day as a statement credit toward in-flight food and beverage purchases. Yes, you read that correctly – cardholders can get up to $25 per day on purchases. If you maxed out this benefit, you could save an eye-popping $9,125 per year. That's a lot of airline cheese plates. Cardholders also get up to $50 back per account year on Wi-Fi purchases on American Airlines flights.

AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard cardholders receive 25% savings on in-flight purchases of food and beverages, and up to $25 back in the form of statement credits toward Wi-Fi on American Airlines flights each year. The card is currently offering new applicants up to 60,000 bonus miles plus a $99 companion ticket after making their first purchase within 90 days and paying the $99 annual fee.

The AAdvantage® Aviator® Business Mastercard® also includes 25% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases and is offering up to 75,000 bonus miles as a welcome offer – 65,000 after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days and an additional 10,000 miles when a purchase is made on an employee card. Its annual fee is $95.

The following Citi co-branded American Airlines credit cards all offer 25% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases:

Aside from that, the Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select card is currently offering new applicants 50,000 bonus AAdvantage miles after spending $2,500 in the first three months of account opening, and its $99 annual fee is waived the first year.

The higher-end Citi/AAdvantage Executive card is offering 50,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening and includes Admirals Club access and the ability to earn elite-qualifying miles through spending among other benefits like up to $100 to cover the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee. The annual fee is $450.

Citi's no-annual-fee AAdvantage MileUp card comes with 10,000 bonus miles plus a $50 statement credit after you spend $500 in the first three months.

Finally, the CitiBusiness®/AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard® has a $99 annual fee that's waived the first 12 months, and it's offering 70,000 bonus miles after you spend $4,000 on the card within the first four months. It also proffers a 25% rebate on in-flight Wi-Fi purchases.

Delta

All seven of Delta's American Express co-branded credit cards offer consistent in-flight savings – 20% off in the form of statement credits after you use your card to pay for in-flight purchases of food, beverages, and audio headsets. Unfortunately, this benefit does not apply to Wi-Fi.

Both the Gold Delta SkyMiles card and the Gold Delta SkyMiles Business card are offering new cardmembers up to 30,000 bonus miles after making $1,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening, and a $50 statement credit after making a Delta purchase with your new card within the first three months.

The Platinum Delta SkyMiles card and the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business card currently offer 5,000 Medallion Qualification Miles and 35,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months, plus a $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new card in your first three months. Each also comes with an annual companion certificate that can be redeemed for domestic round-trip travel. Their annual fees are increasing from $195 to $250 after January 30, 2020.

The Delta Reserve card and Delta Reserve Business card both bestow access to Delta Sky Clubs and a companion certificate good for round-trip domestic flights in any class. Their current welcome offers are 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) and 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months. Their annual fees will be increasing from $450 to $550 January 30, 2020.

Finally, the no-fee Blue Delta SkyMiles card is offering 10,000 bonus miles for new applicants who spend $500 on purchases in the first three months. It earns 2x miles on Delta purchases and at US restaurants.

Hawaiian Airlines

You need to be a HawaiianMiles Pualani Gold or Platinum elite member to take advantage of the Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard's annual perk of up to $100 in statement credits toward in-flight purchases including premium meals, beverages, and onboard entertainment. There is a daily maximum rebate of $10.

The Hawiian Airlines Mastercard is currently offering 60,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 90 days. Its annual fee is $99.

JetBlue

All three of JetBlue's co-branded credit cards offer an impressive 50% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases including cocktails, wine, and beer on JetBlue flights. You will notice that it doesn't apply to Wi-Fi, because JetBlue offers free Wi-Fi.

The JetBlue Plus Card costs $99 per year, and offers benefits like a 10% refund on redeemed points and Mosaic elite status when you hit $50,000 in spending on the card annually. It is currently offering 40,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days and pay of the annual fee.

The JetBlue Business Card's current sign-up bonus is an impressive 60,000 points – earn 50,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days and earn 10,000 points when a purchase is made on an employee card. Its annual fee is also $99.

Finally, the no-annual-fee JetBlue Card is offering 10,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.

Southwest Airlines

Interestingly, not all of Southwest's credit cards include in-flight purchase discounts and they can vary widely.

For instance, the relatively new Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card offers cardholders up to $8 toward onboard Wi-Fi purchases per day up to 365 days per year. That's potentially $2,920 in savings per year, though only if you fly and surf (the web) every day.

By contrast, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card refunds 20% back in in-flight purchases of drinks and Wi-Fi on Southwest flights. You might just have to wait one or two billing cycles for them to appear on your account as statement credits.

The Southwest Priority card carries a $149 annual fee and includes perks like a $75 annual Southwest travel credit and four upgraded boardings per year. Its current welcome offer is 40,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open.

The Southwest Performance business card costs $199 per year, but offers benefits like four upgraded boardings per year, up to $100 as a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee refund, and 9,000 bonus points each account anniversary. It is currently offering 70,000 bonus points for spending $5,000 in your first three months.

United

Only United's personal co-branded credit cards offer in-flight purchase discounts.

The United Explorer Card, United Club Card, and United TravelBank Card all come with 25% savings in the form of statement credits for purchases of food, beverages and Wi-Fi aboard United flights.

The Explorer's $95 annual fee is waived the first year, and the card is currently offering 65,000 bonus miles – 40,000 after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first the months and an additional 25,000 miles if you spend $10,000 total in the first six months. It offers a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee refund once every four years, two United Club one-time passes, and bonus earning opportunities at restaurants and hotels.

The United Club Card costs $450 per year, but will get you into United Clubs when traveling, and offers slightly enhanced checked bag and Premier Access day-of-travel benefits. Its sign-up bonus is currently 50,000 miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months.

For its part, the TravelBank earns TravelBank cash instead of United MileagePlus miles, which can be redeemed for airfare on United flights. It is currently offering $150 in United TravelBank cash after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Bottom line

While nothing seems to be free on airlines any more – from checked bags to seat assignments to a simple snack – carrying the right co-branded credit card could help you save hundreds of dollars each year depending how much you fly and spend.

Even infrequent flyer can find some value in the in-flight purchase discounts offered by many airline credit cards. Just be sure you know how much you will be saving and on what specific purchases — like food but not Wi-Fi, or vice versa — before committing to a card and using it on board.

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Warren Buffett made 12 predictions about bitcoin, table tennis, and his death — here's how they turned out

Fri, 11/29/2019 - 1:14pm

  • The legendary investor Warren Buffett avoids making predictions, but we've gathered 12 of his best guesses about cryptocurrency, table tennis, and even his own death.
  • We've detailed each prediction and assessed its accuracy in the slideshow below.

The legendary investor Warren Buffett knows better than to make predictions.

"We have no idea — and never have had — whether the market is going to go up, down, or sideways in the near- or intermediate-term future," he wrote in his 1986 letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders.

Yet the Oracle of Omaha couldn't resist making a few guesses about the future over the years. We've gathered 12 of his most intriguing predictions and assessed their accuracy in the slideshow below.

SEE ALSO: Here are the 21 most brilliant quotes from Warren Buffett, the world's most famous and successful investor

SEE ALSO: Bad spending habits that rich people always avoid

1. Cryptocurrencies

Prediction:

"In terms of cryptocurrencies generally, I can say almost with certainty that they will come to a bad ending," Buffett said in an interview with CNBC in January 2018. "Now, when it happens or how or anything else, I don't know."

He added: "If I could buy a five-year put on every one of the cryptocurrencies, I'd be glad to do it, but I would never short a dime's worth."

Outcome:

Buffett has been right about cryptocurrencies so far. At the time of his prediction, bitcoin traded above $14,000. The cryptocurrency slumped below $4,000 by the end of 2018, and it's now trading at about $7,800.



2. Flat-earthers

Prediction:

"Ships will sail around the world, but the Flat Earth Society will flourish," Buffett said in a speech at Columbia's business school in May 1984.

Outcome:

Buffett may have been making a point about stubborn denialism in financial markets, but his prediction about so-called flat-earthers was correct — they've enjoyed a resurgence in recent years.



3. Berkshire Hathaway

Prediction:

"It is fitting that the visit of Halley's Comet coincided with this percentage gain: neither will be seen again in my lifetime," Buffett told Berkshire Hathaway shareholders in 1985 after the conglomerate grew its net worth by 48.2%.

He also predicted that the 23.2% compounded annual growth in the company's per-share book value that year was "another percentage that will not be repeated."

Outcome:

It took nearly 20 years for Buffett to prove himself wrong on the first count. Berkshire Hathaway's net worth jumped by 48.3% in 1998, though that was largely because the company issued shares for acquisitions.

"Normally, a gain of 48.3% would call for handsprings — but not this year," he told investors.

Buffett's second prediction was way off the mark. Berkshire Hathaway's per-share book value rose by 23.3% in 1986. It has also grown by at least 23.2% in more than 10 other years since 1985.



4. Sears

Prediction:

Buffett told students at the University of Kansas in May 2005 that Sears Chairman Eddie Lampert would struggle to revitalize the department-store chain. He warned that rivals such as Walmart and Costco could undercut Sears, which had just been acquired by Kmart.

"Eddie is a very smart guy, but putting Kmart and Sears together is a tough hand," Buffett said. "Turning around a retailer that has been slipping for a long time would be very difficult."

Outcome:

Buffett was right on the money. Sears filed for bankruptcy protection in October.

However, some hope remains: Lampert recently won court approval to buy the 126-year-old retailer out of bankruptcy and escape liquidation.



5. ABC, Geico, and The Washington Post

Prediction:

"We expect to keep permanently our three primary holdings, Capital Cities/ABC, Inc., Geico Corporation, and The Washington Post," Buffett told Berkshire Hathaway shareholders in his 1986 letter.

"Even if these securities were to appear significantly overpriced, we would not anticipate selling them, just as we would not sell See's or Buffalo Evening News if someone were to offer us a price far above what we believe those businesses are worth," he added.

Outcome:

Despite his best intentions, Buffett can't resist a great deal. Berkshire Hathaway sold its stake in Capital Cities/ABC to The Walt Disney Company in 1996 in a cash-and-stock deal worth $2.5 billion.

He also flogged his company's 28% stake in The Post to Graham Holdings in a deal worth more than $1.1 billion in 2014, according to the newspaper. The Graham family sold The Post to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in a $250 million deal in 2013.

Berkshire Hathaway remains a major investor in Geico, See's Candies, and The Buffalo News.



6. Freddie Mac

Prediction:

"In 1988 we made major purchases of Federal Home Loan Mortgage Pfd. ('Freddie Mac')," Buffett told Berkshire Hathaway shareholders in his letter that year.

"We expect to hold these securities for a long time. In fact, when we own portions
of outstanding businesses with outstanding managements, our favorite holding period is forever."

Outcome:

Luckily for Buffett, he changed his mind. Berkshire Hathaway sold nearly all its Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae shares in 2000, slashing its holding to 0.3% from 8.6% in 1999. Buffett told the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission in 2010 that he had become "concerned" about the companies' management.

"They were trying to and proclaiming that they could increase earnings per share in some low double-digit range or something of the sort," he said. "And any time a large financial institution starts promising regular earnings increases, you're going to have trouble, you know?"



7. Coca-Cola and Gillette

Prediction:

"No sensible observer — not even these companies' most vigorous competitors, assuming they are assessing the matter honestly — questions that Coke and Gillette will dominate their fields worldwide for an investment lifetime," Buffett wrote in his 1996 letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders.

"Indeed, their dominance will probably strengthen. Both companies have significantly expanded their already huge shares of market during the past ten years, and all signs point to their repeating that performance in the next decade."

Outcome:

Buffett's claims have proved sound so far: Both Coke and Gillette remain the biggest players in their markets, though the latter is under mounting pressure.

Coca-Cola's share of the US soft-drinks market was 41% in 1991, compared with Pepsi's 33%, and outsold its archrival fourfold in overseas markets, according to The New York Times. Its share of the global carbonated-beverage market was nearly 49% in 2015, according to Statista.

In contrast, Gillette's market share has fallen from about 70% in 2010 to 54% in 2016 in the face of fierce competition from startups including the Unilever-owned Dollar Shave Club and Harry's, according to a report from the data-tracking firm Euromonitor cited by The Wall Street Journal.



8. Death

Prediction:

"My expected lifespan of about 12 years (though, naturally, I'm aiming for more)," Buffett wrote in his 2006 letter to shareholders.

Outcome:

If Buffett had to pick one forecast to undershoot, he would probably choose this one. More than 12 years after writing the letter, he's still alive and seems to be in good health.



9. Table tennis

Prediction:

Buffett touted Ariel Hsing, a top-rated junior table-tennis player, as a "good bet to win at the Olympics some day" in his 2009 letter to shareholders.

Outcome:

Buffett's endorsement was more a marketing campaign for Hsing's presence at Berkshire Hathaway's next annual meeting than an actual prediction.

Hsing competed in the 2012 London Olympics, losing 4-2 in the round of 32 to the eventual gold medalist, Li Xiaoxia of China.



10. Housing

Prediction:

"Housing will come back — you can be sure of that," Buffett told shareholders in his letter in 2011 after the US housing bubble burst, fueling the financial crisis.

He added: "We will again build one million or more residential units annually. I believe pundits will be surprised at how far unemployment drops once that happens."

Outcome:

Buffett was right about a recovery in housing and employment. Housing starts in the US were tracking at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of about 1.3 million units in October, according to the Commerce Department.

Unemployment has also fallen from 8.9% in 2011 to below 3.8% in 2018, an 18-year low, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.



11. Index funds

Prediction:

"Over a ten-year period commencing on January 1, 2008, and ending on December 31, 2017, the S&P 500 will outperform a portfolio of funds of hedge funds, when performance is measured on a basis net of fees, costs, and expenses," Buffett predicted.

He posted the above prediction on Long Bets, a website for making long-term wagers and nominating charities to receive the winnings. Ted Seides, a manager of Protégé Partners, an asset manager that invests in multiple hedge funds, agreed to bet that a portfolio of five funds, invested in more than 200 hedge funds, would beat the S&P 500 index.

Outcome:

Buffett has argued for years that index funds offer better returns to investors than stock-pickers, as they provide exposure to a broad range of stocks and charge fewer fees.

He won the bet. The S&P 500 returned an average of 8.5% from 2008 to 2017, while the average return of the five funds it was up against was less than 3%.

Buffett donated his $2.2 million payout to Girls Incorporated of Omaha.



12. S&P 500

Prediction:

Buffett is notoriously skeptical that the good times will continue. In Berkshire Hathaway's 1999 letter to shareholders, Buffett and Charlie Munger, his partner, deemed it a "virtual certainty" that the S&P 500 would "do far less well in the next decade or two than it has done since 1982."

Outcome:

Buffett was right that the S&P's stellar average total return of just over 19% from 1982 to 1999 wouldn't last. The index returned an average of 1.2% over the next decade, according to SlickCharts, recovering to a respectable 12.2% from 2010 to 2018.



SEE ALSO:

11 mind-blowing facts about the US economy »



Here are the best high-yield savings accounts right now

Fri, 11/29/2019 - 1:06pm

The best high-yield savings accounts right now:

You really can't go wrong with a high-yield savings account. If you've decided to store your money in a high-yield account, where it's growing but still accessible, you're already doing better than the 75% of Americans who are leaving money on the table.

As more banks and financial companies crowd into the high-yield savings space, it has become an all-out battle to offer the best account features coupled with the highest interest rates — and that's great news for savers. 

It's important to note that, unlike certificates of deposit (CDs), you do not lock in a fixed interest rate when you open a high-yield savings account. The annual percentage yield (APY) is variable since it's based on what the Federal Reserve does. So while it's smart to look at interest rates when comparing high-yield savings accounts, it's not the be-all and end-all.

Below you'll find our picks for the best high-yield savings accounts right now. Each of these accounts is free of monthly maintenance fees, insured by the FDIC, and appropriate for modest and super savers alike. Users can access each of these accounts online or through an app.

Wealthfront: Best high-yield savings account overall

Why it stands out: While technically a cash management account, it has the same features as a high-yield savings account: safety, growth, and accessibility. It is federally insured just like a savings or checking account, but you can also move the money into an investment account with ease.

While its 1.82% APY isn't the highest you'll find, Wealthfront offers the complete package including a user-friendly app. There are no limits to the number of transfers you can make each statement cycle and your money is FDIC insured up to $1 million.

Wealthfront goes a step further than simply holding your money. The robo-adviser asks what you're saving for, whether it be an emergency fund, wedding, or house down payment, how much it will cost, and when you need it by to forecast how your goals may impact your other financial plans. 

Rate: 1.82%

Minimum opening deposit: $1

What to look out for: No check capabilities. Wealthfront's high-yield account doesn't allow mobile check deposit or issue checks using funds from your account, though it plans to add this feature later. 

BrioDirect: Best high-yield savings account APY 

Why it stands out: BrioDirect is the online division of Sterling National Bank and it offers one of the top APYs for high-yield savings accounts right now, paired with a low minimum deposit. It's also accessible via mobile app.

Rate: 2.20%

Minimum opening deposit: $25

What to look out for: Fund transfer wait times. We noticed some account holders complaining that while it took just minutes to open the account, it took longer than anticipated to make the initial transfer.

Ally Bank: Best high-yield savings account for ease of use

Why it stands out: Ally has been a power player in the high-yield savings space for a few years now, and it consistently nabs top awards for online banking. It's a particular favorite among millennials, who tout its accessibility and ease of use. You can deposit checks through the mobile app and open multiple accounts in minutes. 

Rate: 1.70%

Minimum opening deposit: $0

What to look out for: An excessive transfer charge. Like most banks, Ally limits the number of transfers in and out of its high-yield savings account to six times per statement cycle. Each transfer over the limit will incur a fee of $10.

CIT Bank Savings Builder: Best high-yield savings account for automatic savings

Why it stands out: This account rewards automatic savings with a high APY. After you make an initial deposit of $100 to open an account, you'll earn the top APY for a brief introductory period. After that, you'll need to set up automatic transfers or direct deposit of at least $100 a month (or keep a balance of $25,000) to keep earning 1.85%. If you're serious about making saving a habit, this is a great tool to get started.

Rate: 1.17% to 1.85%

Minimum opening deposit: $100

What to look out for: Minimum balance requirements. If you don't set up automatic transfers of $100 a month and you have less than $25,000 in the account, you'll earn 1.17%. 

Synchrony Bank: Best high-yield savings account for ATM access

Why it stands out: High-yield savings accounts usually don't allow you to pull out cash easily. Synchrony Bank gives account holders a debit card to use at ATMs and doesn't limit the number of transactions.

Rate: 1.90% APY

Minimum opening deposit: $0

What to look out for: ATM fees. While Synchrony won't charge you for ATM withdrawals on its end, other banks or operators may. Synchrony will only reimburse up to $5 in ATM fees per statement cycle.

Other high-yield savings accounts we considered and why they didn't make the cut:

  • Capital One 360: This is a solid high-yield savings account, but its 1.80% APY is slightly lower than other accounts with similar features.
  • Betterment: This robo-adviser's high-yield cash account, which requires a $10 initial deposit but doesn't limit transfers, is generally a good deal. But in order to clinch the top APY of 1.85%, you have to join the waitlist for Betterment's checking account.
  • Discover Bank: While it offers the same 1.70% APY, Discover's high-yield savings account isn't as beloved by customers as Ally's.
  • Marcus by Goldman Sachs: While this high-yield savings account is a contender for fan favorite, there's no mobile app, which means there's no easy way to deposit checks.
  • Barclays: A fine high-yield savings account with a 1.80% APY, it lacks distinguishing factors.
  • American Express: With a solid 1.75% APY, this account is a good option if you don't mind not having mobile access.
  • HSBC Direct: The 2.05% APY makes this high-yield savings account a good choice for high earning potential, but it's not the best no-fee, low minimum balance option out there.
  • CIBC Bank: To earn the 1.85% APY on CIBC's high-yield savings account, you only need to maintain a balance of $0.01, but you have to put down $1,000 to open the account in the first place.
  • Fitness Bank: This unique high-yield savings account determines your APY by the number of steps you take on an average day. While there's potential to earn up to 2.60% on your money, it's conditional on your level of commitment.
  • Citizens Access: Despite offering a respectable 1.85% APY, the minimum deposit to open a high-yield savings account here is $5,000.
  • MySavingsDirect: This high-yield savings account earns 2%, but there are others with better user experience and similar features that earn more.
  • SFGI Direct: A 2.27% APY may be attractive to interest-rate chasers, but you need at least $500 to open an account here.
  • Vio Bank: Although Vio Bank's high-yield savings account earns just over 2%, it requires $100 to start and didn't stand out among similar accounts.
  • Credit Karma: This high-yield savings account earns 1.90%, but as a credit and loan company, Credit Karma's expertise is not in traditional banking. 
  • Personal Capital: This is technically a cash account, which makes it easy to sweep some money into investments, but it only offers a 1.55% APY on your savings.
Frequently asked questions: Why trust our recommendations?

Personal Finance Insider's mission is to help smart people make the best decisions with their money. We understand that "best" is often subjective, so in addition to highlighting the clear benefits of a financial product or account — a high APY, for example — we outline the limitations, too. We spent hours comparing and contrasting the features and fine print of various products so you don't have to.

How did we choose the best high-yield savings accounts?

There are a lot of high-yield savings accounts out there. Through our research, we've found that the best high-yield savings accounts are offered by banks with a strong online presence, robo-advisers, and other internet-only financial companies. 

In addition to polling Business Insider employees for their favorite picks, we reviewed high-yield savings accounts at nearly two dozen institutions to identify the strongest options. We also cross-referenced our list against popular comparison sites like Bankrate and Nerdwallet to make sure we didn't miss a thing. 

While interest rates are an important aspect of any high-yield savings account, several offer the same annual percentage yield (APY). To differentiate between them, we also considered minimum deposit and balance requirements, transfer limitations, and any other standout features. Importantly, we didn't consider any high-yield savings accounts that impose monthly maintenance fees.

Are high-yield savings accounts worth it?

Yes — a high-yield savings account has very few downsides, if any. There's no risk that you'll lose money, your account is insured by the FDIC (usually up to $250,000, but up to $1 million in some cases), and it gives you a shot at beating inflation.

The only time a high-yield savings account may not be worth it is if you're paying excessive maintenance fees that eat into your interest payments or you find yourself restricted by the monthly transfer limit or time it takes for your money to get to your checking account.

Which banks have the best savings interest rates?

Generally you'll find the best savings interest rates at online banks. Nationally, the average traditional savings account earns just 0.09% APY. The best high-yield savings accounts offer an APY of at least 1.50%.

If you're more comfortable banking with a brick-and-mortar, a traditional savings account may be a better option for you. Just know that you may not be getting the best possible interest rate.

How often do high-yield savings rates change? 

Interest rates on high-yield savings accounts closely follow the federal funds rate. That is to say, rates are variable and can change multiple times per year at the whim of the Federal Reserve. 

The Fed meets eight times a year and decides whether to increase, decrease, or leave interest rates untouched. If the Fed cuts rates, the APY on your savings account can drop within days. When rates are lower, you won't earn as much interest on your savings. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't save at all. When interest rates inevitably go back up, you'll see a greater return on your money than if you started from scratch. 

Because the Fed spent several years raising rates since the Great Recession, it has cut interest rates three times so far in 2019 in an effort to regulate the economy and side step another recession. It's nearly impossible to predict with certainty which way rates will go, but you can bet they're going to change one way or another.

Is there a 5% interest savings account?

There is no savings account that offers a 5% interest rate. Today, most high-yield savings accounts top out around 2.50% APY. If you want a higher return and you don't need immediate access to your money, you may consider putting it in a certificate of deposit (CD) or investing in the market. 

Tanza Loudenback has been writing about money every day for more than three years. She is an expert on strategies for building wealth and financial products that help people make the most of their money. She is in the process of becoming a licensed CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP).

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In latest sign of trade-war pain, the Trump administration announces tariff relief for dozens of Chinese products

Fri, 11/29/2019 - 1:02pm

  • The US on Friday announced it would shield dozens of products from steep import tariffs it levied against China last year.
  • The move was seen as a way to mitigate domestic concerns ahead of the 2020 elections, but it came at a critical moment in trade negotiations.
  • Thousands of companies have requested relief from tariffs, warning the Trump administration that those measures could eventually force them to raise prices or slash jobs.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The US on Friday announced it would shield dozens of products from steep import tariffs it levied against China last year.

The move was the latest acknowledgment by the Trump administration that its trade policies have threatened to cause financial pain for American companies. President Donald Trump has often downplayed the domestic effects of his tit-for-tat dispute with the second-largest economy, arguing that it's necessary to win fairer trade agreements.

Lollipops, vacuum cleaners, table lamps, bicycles, outdoor tables, canoes, cots, and more would be excluded from the tariffs implemented on $200 billion worth of Chinese products in September 2018, the Office of the US Trade Representative said. In May, Trump more than doubled the tax rate on those imports to 25%.

Thousands of companies have requested relief from those measures, warning the Trump administration that they could eventually force them to raise prices or slash jobs. But companies and watchdogs have criticized tariff decision-making as lacking transparency.

Joseph Barloon, the USTR general counsel, said that as part of the exclusion process officials determine whether the tariff would "cause severe economic harm to the requestor or other US interests" and ask whether the product is available only from China, is strategically important, or is related to industrial programs there.

The new exclusions were seen as a way to mitigate domestic concerns ahead of the 2020 elections, but they came at a critical moment in trade negotiations.

China threatened countermeasures against the US over the weekend after Trump signed into law a bill that backed pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong, casting doubt on the first part of an interim trade agreement that was announced in October but has still not been put to paper.

"I'm still not sure both sides will reach a 'phase one' agreement, but the Chinese authorities are capable of expressing displeasure about the human-rights bills and continuing to negotiate on the trade war," said Jared Bernstein, a senior economic adviser in the Obama administration.

Last week, both sides expressed optimism that progress could be made before tariff escalations in December.

While there have been clashes over agricultural purchases and tariffs in recent weeks, China outlined plans to bolster its rules on patents, copyrights, and trademarks in a document released Sunday.

The document proposes concrete ways in which the central government would work to tame the provincial officials who are often involved with intellectual-property violations, according to Mary Lovely, a trade scholar at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

"Such an incentive can be effective, although we also know that the evaluation system can be gamed, as has been the case in environmental protection," she said. "These new guidelines move in the right direction, even as we wait for more specifics to emerge about how these new policies will be carried out."

SEE ALSO: Trump could hit France with more tariffs in battle over taxes on big tech

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Morgan Stanley reportedly fires or places on leave at least 4 traders while investigating millions in hidden losses

Fri, 11/29/2019 - 12:33pm

  • Morgan Stanley has fired or placed on leave at least four traders identified as part of its investigation into securities mismarking, according to a report from Bloomberg.
  • The firm suspects that $100 million to $140 million in losses were concealed by mismarking the value of securities linked to emerging-market currencies, Bloomberg reported.
  • The securities include currency options used for speculating on and hedging against losses, Bloomberg said.
  • Watch Morgan Stanley trade live on Markets Insider.

At least four Morgan Stanley traders have reportedly been fired or placed on leave over allegations that millions in losses were hidden through securities mismarking.

According to a report from Bloomberg, the firm suspects that between $100 million and $140 million in losses were concealed by mismarking the value of securities linked to emerging-market currencies.

Mismarking occurs when the value assigned to securities doesn't reflect what they're actually worth.

Morgan Stanley's investigation involves currency options, which provide investors the right to buy or sell the security at a specific price at a certain date, Bloomberg said.

The investment vehicles are often used for speculation or to hedge against potential losses from other positions. The bank's currency-options trading desk has underperformed in 2019 as volatility in emerging markets has faded, Bloomberg reported, citing a person with knowledge of the situation.

Bloomberg said that the employment status of the traders identified as part of the investigation was unclear but that at least some of them were leaving Morgan Stanley. A representative from Morgan Stanley did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

There's been a broader push on the federal level to crack down on traders and investment firms improperly reporting the value of assets. A former hedge-fund trader this month was sentenced to 40 months in prison for working with the firm's cofounder to trick investors by overvaluing assets.

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3 strategies I use to earn as many points as possible from my holiday spending toward

Fri, 11/29/2019 - 11:34am

  • If you tend to spend more during the holidays, it's wise to plan out your spending with rewards credit cards so that you can earn as many travel points or as much cash back as possible.
  • I target lucrative credit card welcome bonuses during the holiday season that require a higher level of spending to earn. 
  • Holiday travel usually goes on whichever credit card offers the best travel insurance. For me, that's the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
  • Finally, I put miscellaneous purchases like stocking stuffers on a flat-rate cash-back credit card.
  • Read more personal finance coverage.

The holidays are drawing near, and as most people are making shopping lists and dreaming up recipes, I'm busy planning out my credit card rewards strategy.

November and December is a bountiful time of year in more than one respect. It's the best time of year for me — and many others — to go gung-ho on earning credit card rewards because it's when our spending tends to spike.

By strategically planning how I'll split up my holiday spending across my rewards credit cards, I stand to earn hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in credit card points. Here's how.

Keep in mind that we're focusing on the rewards and perks that make these credit cards great options, not things like interest rates and late fees, which will far outweigh the value of any points or miles. It's important to practice financial discipline when using credit cards by paying your balances in full each month, making payments on time, and only spending what you can afford to pay back.

I'm aiming for a generous welcome bonus with a high minimum spend requirement

There's nothing I love more in the credit card rewards world than a good sign-up bonus. These bonuses offer a big lump sum of points or miles to new cardholders who can spend a certain amount within the first few months.

You'll usually find these offers on the credit card application page, although you might get some in the mail too. A typical offer will say something like, "Apply now and get 30,000 bonus miles when you spend $1,000 in the first three months."

While I don't have a problem putting $1,000 of my regular spending on a credit card over the course of three months, some of the most generous sign-up bonuses require higher spending levels, like $5,000 in the first three months. For those credit cards, I time my application so that I'm approved right before the holidays kick into full gear.

Read more: 6 easy ways to meet the minimum spending requirement to earn a credit card sign-up bonus

Not only do I spend more in the months of November and December on things like flights, food, and presents, but I also have more opportunities to put other people's spending on my credit card, helping me reach higher spending requirements.

When my whole family goes out to dinner, I ask if I can put the bill on my credit card and have everyone pay me their share. The same goes for a group bar tab on New Year's Eve. This makes earning a big sign-up bonus easy.

In the past, I've gone for the sign-up bonuses on the Platinum Card® from American Express, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, and the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card.

This year, I'm aiming for a targeted offer I received for the American Express® Business Gold Card. The standard offer is for 35,000 Amex points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months, but I'm eligible for a higher offer of 75,000 points — 50,000 points after spending $5,000 in the first three months, and an additional 25,000 points after spending $10,000 total in the first three months.

I'm putting holiday travel on a card with travel insurance

Rather than putting my flight to visit my family on a new credit card to try and earn a welcome bonus, I used my Chase Sapphire Reserve to purchase them. Of all my credit cards, this one offers the best travel insurance, so I always put my flights on it.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers a generous level of coverage that includes travel accident insurance, trip cancellation and interruption protection, trip delay reimbursement, and delayed and lost baggage insurance, among other protections. These travel benefits could save me thousands of dollars in the event of an emergency. Even during a non-emergency like delayed or lost luggage, having the insurance with your credit card means you'll get reimbursed for food, clothes, and chargers you need to buy in the meantime.

I also plan to put my rental car on my Chase Sapphire Reserve. I always do this because the card offers primary rental car insurance. This means I can opt out of the collision coverage offered by rental car companies and save a significant amount of money. The fact that the coverage is primary is important, because secondary rental car insurance means you have to file a claim with your own personal car insurance before you can file a claim with your credit card.

I'm making miscellaneous purchases with a flat-rate cash-back card

I'm usually all about travel rewards over cash back, but cash-back credit cards that earn a flat rate of cash back on all your spending are great for non-travel holiday expenses. These cards let you earn a higher rate on all of those miscellaneous purchases you end up making during the holidays, from stocking stuffers to mashed potatoes.

Given that I'm all about travel rewards, I actually use the Chase Freedom Unlimited for my miscellaneous holiday purchases. Because I already have an Ultimate Rewards-earning credit card (more than one, actually, since I have the Sapphire Reserve and the Ink Business Preferred), I can convert the cash back that I earn to Ultimate Rewards points. So instead of earning an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases, I earn 1.5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on all purchases.

If travel isn't your thing, you'll probably want to focus your efforts on cash-back credit cards. You'll have to tweak this plan to fit your spending habits and rewards goals. No matter your goals, taking a little time this holiday season to maximize your credit card rewards strategy is well worth it.

Cash back: Click here to learn more about the Chase Freedom Unlimited. Travel rewards: Click here to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

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Virgin Money is launching a digital current account

Fri, 11/29/2019 - 11:08am
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The UK challenger bank is set to launch its first digital current account and mobile app next month, according to Finextra. This comes as part of the bank's £60 million ($77 million) rebranding program, and will involve rebranding the accounts of its existing 6 million customers.

Additionally, Virgin Money is opening three new flagship stores in Manchester, Birmingham, and London, where it will aim to introduce consumers to products and services from the wider Virgin Group. These announcements come after Virgin Money was acquired by CYBG in 2018 and it was reported that CYBG's Clydesdale Bank, Yorkshire Bank, and digital offshoot B would rebrand to Virgin Money.

Here's a look at the new account's features, and how it'll fit into Virgin Money's wider value proposition:

  • The features are in line with what other neobanks in the country offer. The new account will allow users to access services such as budgeting and savings tools that enable them to set spending targets, a 'sweep' feature that automatically transfers money from other accounts when running low to avoid fees, and an energy switching tool that was launched with GoCompare. Additionally, users will be able to view accounts held at other banks as part of Virgin Money's open banking efforts. In 2020, the bank will also introduce fee-free debit card transactions abroad, and plans to offer rewards and loyalty benefits. While these are attractive and useful features, they aren't particularly innovative and are already being offered by a number of neobanks.
  • The latest offering adds to Virgin Money's wide range of financial services. The challenger already offers savings and investment accounts, insurance, mortgages, and pension accounts. It's also known for its credit cards, which allow users to earn Flying Club reward miles for Virgin Atlantic when making everyday purchases. By offering a digital current account, Virgin Money can now provide consumers with a well-rounded product suite that can act as a one-stop shop for all of consumers' financial needs.

The neobank space in the UK is getting increasingly crowded, but Virgin Money has brand awareness on its side. There are a number of established neobanks operating in the UK — Monzo, for example, has amassed a total of 3 million customers — which Virgin Money's digital account will compete with.

And while neobanks have conventionally struggled to win customers' trust and deposits — 30% of customers have less than £100 ($129) in their neobank account — Virgin Money's business model could help it succeed. Firstly, Virgin Money has a more established brand than many startup neobanks, thanks to the number of other businesses associated with Virgin.

Additionally, after the merger with CYBG is completed, it'll have an extensive branch network that customers can use for their banking needs, which can further boost trust. But we think it's biggest strength is the Virgin brand, and Virgin Money should look into offering customers perks for other Virgin ventures when using their new account to enhance loyalty.

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There's been an exodus at Deutsche Bank after it overhauled its investment bank this summer. Here are the key US dealmaker departures so far this year.

Fri, 11/29/2019 - 11:03am

  • This summer, Deutsche Bank announced a massive overhaul: unveiling plans to gut its stock-trading business, restructure its investment bank, and lay off 18,000 employees around the world.
  • In an already red-hot hiring market for US investment bankers in 2019, competitors have poached a slew of senior bankers from the beleaguered German lender.
  • Through the first three quarters, the firm lost more than 15 managing directors in the US and nearly 30 worldwide, according to data from Wall Street headhunters.  
  • Business Insider has put together a guide to the 40 most notable US investment-banking moves of 2019. The list includes seven departures from Deutsche Bank.
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories.

No matter what, it likely would have been difficult for Deutsche Bank to hold on to investment-banking talent in the US this year.

Apart from the firm's mounting losses and a plummeting share price, competition for top rainmakers remained at a fever pitch in 2019 following an exceptionally competitive year in 2018

But then in June the beleaguered German lender announced a massive overhaul, unveiling plans to gut its stock-trading business, restructure its investment bank, and lay off 18,000 employees around the world.

Whatever patience — or hopes attached to a rebound in the value of Deutsche stock options —  that had remained among the firm's top dealmakers seemed to vanish after that. 

The firm has hemorrhaged senior investment bankers in 2019, many of them since the reorg announcement this summer. Through the first three quarters, the firm lost more than 15 managing directors in the US and nearly 30 worldwide, according to data from Wall Street headhunters.  

Deutsche Bank hasn't been entirely silent on the hiring front, though. In some cases, it's even paying "danger money" to bankers in select areas where it wants to grow and continue to compete.

They've brought in several financial sponsors managing directors this year, including Nick Agarwal from Wells Fargo, as well as senior industrials banker Ian Woods, a building materials specialist previously at Jefferies.  

Business Insider put together a guide to the most notable US investment-banking moves of 2019, working with senior headhunters and consultants who are in the trenches and tracking all the moves to narrow a list of more than 200 hires and departures down to the 40 most high-profile moves.

Seven of the biggest hires this year were poached from Deutsche Bank, more than any other firm. (Note: That doesn't include European based bankers outside our scope, such as investment banking chief Garth Ritchie.)

Read on to see the most notable bankers from Deutsche Bank's investment banking exodus. 

Check out Business Insider's list of the 40 most significant and noteworthy hires and departures in investment banking in 2019.Kristin DeClark: Deutsche Bank to Barclays

Old role: Head of tech ECM

New role: Cohead of US ECM, global head of tech ECM

Month: March

Barclays poached a pair of high-profile bankers to run equity capital markets in the US this year: Taylor Wright Morgan Stanley and Kristin DeClark from Deutsche Bank.

DeClark, who also moonlights as a competitive ultramarathoner, joined first in March from Deutsche Bank and specializes in hot tech initial public offerings. Among the IPOs she's worked: Dropbox, Snap, Fitbit, Square, and GoDaddy.

 



John Eydenberg: Deutsche Bank to Citigroup

Old role: Chairman, investment banking, Americas

New role: Vice chairman, investment banking

Month: June

Few have capitalized on Deutsche Bank's mass exodus of bankers as favorably as Citigroup, which nabbed a trio of senior rainmakers this summer: TMT cohead Mark Keene, global IB chairman and capital markets head Mark Hantho, and North America IB chairman John Eydenberg. 

Eydenberg, who'd been with Deutsche since 2001, reportedly has close ties to top-tier private equity clients like Apollo Global as well as Japanese investment giant SoftBank.



Jeremy Fox: Deutsche Bank to Credit Suisse

Old role: Head of ECM, Americas

New role: Cohead of real estate investment banking, Americas

Month: August

Fox is one of a handful of senior bankers to decamp not long after Deutsche Bank's monumental investment banking overhaul this summer.

The equity capital markets banker already has a stable of real estate relationships — he worked on IPOs for companies including Hilton Worldwide and Blackstone's Invitation Homes — but now he's pivoting to full-time coverage banking as the cohead of the group in the US for Credit Suisse. 

 



Celeste Guth: Deutsche Bank to PJT Partners

Old role: Global head of M&A

New role: Partner

Month: October

Guth lasted all of four months as Deutsche Bank's global head of M&A before ditching the troubled bank for calmer waters at advisory boutique PJT Partners.

Guth was named to the high-profile post this summer amid a massive overhaul that saw the German lender split its investment bank into three divisions and lay off thousands of employees. 

She previously ran the firm's global financial institutions group and was poached in 2015 from Goldman Sachs, where she spent nearly three decades and was made partner in 2002.

 



Mark Hantho: Deustche Bank to Citigroup

Old role: Chairman of global capital markets and global head of ECM

New role: Vice chairman, investment banking

Month: June

Few have capitalized on Deutsche Bank's mass exodus of bankers as favorably as Citigroup, which nabbed a trio of senior rainmakers this summer: TMT cohead Mark Keene, global IB chairman and capital markets head Mark Hantho, and North America IB chairman John Eydenberg. 

After 13 years at Deutsche, the Montreal native Hantho — who has spent long stints in both London and Hong Kong — will continue coordinating capital underwriting for large corporates from New York as a vice chairman at Citi. 



Mark Keene: Deutsche Bank to Citigroup

Old role: Global cohead of technology, media, and telecom investment banking

New role: Global cohead of technology investment banking

Month: June

Few have capitalized on Deutsche Bank's mass exodus of bankers as favorably as Citigroup, which nabbed a trio of senior rainmakers this summer: TMT cohead Mark Keene, global IB chairman and capital markets head Mark Hantho, and North America IB chairman John Eydenberg. 

Keene, a 13-year Deutsche veteran and semiconductor expert, will co-run technology investment banking at Citi alongside Herb Yeh. 



Tommaso Zanobini: Deutsche Bank to Moelis

Old role: Global head of fintech investment banking

New role: Managing director, fintech investment banking

Month: September

Yet another senior Deutsche defection, Zanobini's departure for Moelis leaves a hole for the firm in the simmering financial technology sector. 

Zanobini, who joined the German bank in 2017, has 25 years of tech investment banking experience, holding senior roles at Jefferies, Barclays, and Lehman Brothers during his career. 



FREE SLIDE DECK: The Future of Fintech

Thu, 11/28/2019 - 4:02pm

Digital disruption is affecting every aspect of the fintech industry. Over the past five years, fintech has established itself as a fundamental part of the global financial services ecosystem.

Fintech startups have raised, and continue to raise, billions of dollars annually. At the same time, incumbent financial institutions are getting in on the act, and using fintech to remain competitive in a rapidly evolving financial services landscape. So what's next?

Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service, has the answer in our brand new exclusive slide deck The Future of Fintech. In this deck, we explore what's next for fintech, how it will reach new heights, and the developments that will help it get there.

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These credit card issuers show your card number as soon as you're approved — so you can start working toward your sign-up bonus right away

Thu, 11/28/2019 - 2:20pm

It's 2019, and sometimes I forget that not everything is instantly available. It's a pretty classic modern "problem" for me to order something online and then grumble about two-day shipping, or settle into a new coffee shop only to find out that the internet is down, or worse yet, never existed in the first place.

By that same logic, it's almost surprising that not every credit card offers you your card number immediately. Why do I need to wait for my physical card when I know that I've already been approved — couldn't I just have the number and go for it?

As it turns out, some rewards credit cards do offer instant numbers. This means that you won't have to wait for your card to arrive in order to use it, which is ideal for emergency situations and time-sensitive purchases. Plus, if you want to start putting your spending toward the minimum spending requirement to earn the card's sign-up bonus, this lets you get started immediately.

Not every credit card issuer does this though, so it's important to know who does. Here are a few that do, and equally as important, a few that don't.

Read more: The best credit card sign-up bonuses available now

Credit card issuers that don't offer instant numbers

If you want to get your credit card number right away, don't go applying to cards from the following issuers:

  • Alliant
  • Barclaycard
  • Chase
  • Discover
  • Wells Fargo

These credit card issuers don't offer numbers upon approval and won't disclose card information until your physical card arrives in the mail.

Credit cards that do offer instant numbers

However, there are quite a few cards — and one issuer — that do offer numbers on approval. Many of them are associated with store accounts as well as airline and hotel rewards programs.

American Express cards

American Express is probably your best bet for finding a card that offers an instant number. In fact, it doesn't matter which American Express card you're looking for; you'll instantly receive your number upon approval no matter which card you just opened.

It is worth mentioning at least one solid partnership. One major US partner is Delta, which offers a variety of cards co-branded with American Express. These include:

These cards are ideal for building a direct stockpile of Delta SkyMiles with everyday purchases, and they're getting updates in 2020, in some case adding new bonus categories.

However, standard Amex cards within the Amex Membership Rewards program can interface with even more airlines (Emirates, Etihad, Singapore) as well as Hilton and Marriott. So if you're not sold on Delta and would like more flexibility with your points redemptions, earning Membership Rewards points directly through Amex and transferring to your desired points currency later might be a better bet.

Here are some of the top cards that earn American Express Membership Rewards points:

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card

Not only will you have the ability to earn and redeem Alaska MileagePlan miles with this card, but it's also one of the only Bank of America cards that gives you your card number upon approval.

Right now, this card is offering a pretty sweet sign-up bonus of 40,000 miles and a companion fare (for $99 plus taxes and fees from $22) after spending at least $2,000 on purchases within the first 90 days of your account opening, which means having your account number right away could help you get a jump-start on meeting that minimum spending requirement.

Read the Alaska Airlines Visa card review

Citi/AAdvantage cards and the AT&T Access card

Citi offers credit card numbers on approval with American Airlines and AT&T cards.

American Airlines AAdvantage co-branded with Citi span the spectrum of card types from basic personal accounts with no annual fee to premium business cards. You can currently earn anywhere from 10,000 to 70,000 bonus AAdvantage miles after qualifying purchases, depending on the card you select.

Top Citi/AAdvantage cards include:

Citi's AT&T Access card also offers you your card number upon approval. It currently offers a sign-up bonus of 10,000 Citi ThankYou points after you make $1,000 in purchases within the first three months of your account opening.

The Apple Card

Given that you apply for the Apple Card directly on your iPhone, it's not a surprise that you're given your card number as soon as you're approved. In fact, your physical Apple Card won't even include the card number; it lives exclusively in the Wallet app on your phone.

Read more: How the Apple Card compares to top rewards cards from Amex, Capital One, and more

Bottom Line

As you can see, many of the cards that offer an instant number upon approval are linked to airline rewards programs or stores/services. This makes sense; the faster the customer has access to a card number, the faster the customer can make target purchases to earn points and build loyalty. Luckily for consumers, this attention and immediacy is an aspect of our credit-based economy that can benefit us as long as we use it responsibly.

With that in mind, we should approach the idea of instant credit lines cautiously and intelligently; never accept offers you can't reasonably afford in the long term, and always use that convenient auto pay feature to make sure you stay on top of your bills. 

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The Death of Cash

Thu, 11/28/2019 - 2:02pm

Both globally and in the US, the payments ecosystem is evolving.

Two related trends: the slow death of cash and the fast rise of digital payments, are transforming how consumers, businesses, governments, and even criminals move money.

Annual global non-cash transactions are expected to pass the 1 trillion milestone by 2024. This major transformation is being propelled by several factors, including increased usage of digital wallets, more small vendors adapting to accept credit cards, and the explosive growth of mobile commerce.

In The Death of Cash slide deck, Business Insider Intelligence projects what the payments ecosystem will look like through 2024 by examining the driving forces powering digital payment proliferation.

This exclusive report can be yours for FREE today.

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Wall Street stock traders are piling into bets against cannabis stocks, even as shares have plummeted

Thu, 11/28/2019 - 12:46pm

Traders are still bearish on cannabis stocks after months of turmoil in the industry.

A new report from the financial analytics firm S3 Partners shows that investors are increasing their bets that the stocks will fall, a practice known as short selling. Shorts have added a net $1.4 billion of short positions in cannabis companies this year, according to S3 data through November 20.

Shorting a stock means that you're betting it's going to fall by borrowing the stock, selling it on the open market, and then — if the share price drops — returning those shares to the seller and pocketing the difference.

So one measure of how much traders are betting against a stock is how much it costs to borrow it. Of the top 10 stocks with the highest borrow fees, four — Aurora Cannabis, Tilray, Hexo, and Aphria — are cannabis companies, according to the report.

"Short sellers pay a fee to borrow stock to cover the settlement of their short sales," Ihor Dusaniwsky, S3's head of predictive analytics, said in the report. "Stock loan is a supply\demand market; if supply gets tight or demand spikes borrow fees are bound to go up." 

Aurora Cannabis has the highest borrow fees of any cannabis company, according to the report, with short positions costing 66.55%. Tilray is a close second, with borrow fees at 63.05%.

The average borrow fee for cannabis stocks is 23.45%, according to the report. Those fees have been steadily rising, indicating increased demand to short. In August, the average borrow fee for cannabis stocks was 16.75%. 

For what it's worth, the average borrow fee in the US and Canadian market is around 0.8%, per S3.

Short sellers are piling in, even as cannabis stocks decline

Short sellers have kept piling into these stocks, even as they've declined, meaning they think they still have room to fall. The North American Marijuana Index, a composite of US and Canadian cannabis companies, has fallen over 44% since the beginning of the year.

Still, Dusaniwsky said traders betting against the stocks may end their bets and reap profits soon, given how much the shares have declined. 

"We may see short sellers in cannabis stocks that are bouncing off their lows, like Canopy Growth, reallocate their exposure to more attractive short targets," Dudaniwsky said. "Overall short exposure in the sector has been increasing for over a year as short sellers target over-bought and over-valued stocks in a sector that has lost its positive momentum. Shorts will probably reallocate their exposure to other stocks in the sector as turnarounds occur, but not swap into another sector until a more widespread rally begins."

That widespread rally has so far been elusive. While cannabis stocks were lifted last week on news that a US House of Representatives committee passed a comprehensive cannabis-legalization bill, they lost most of their gains on Tuesday, when the Food and Drug Administration announced that CBD, a nonpsychoactive compound in cannabis, wasn't safe to use in food and could be harmful to health.

Dismal earnings, slashed price targets, and headwinds

Sell-side analysts, for the most part, have slashed their prices targets on some US and Canadian cannabis stocks as well, casting doubt on the federal legalization bill.

"Some may see the upside and think the sector may have bottomed out. We don't think so," Owen Bennett, an analyst at Jefferies, said, adding that some of the gains made last week could be because of a short squeeze. 

"This fundamental outlook remains one of a perceived liquidity crisis. In such an environment, the names you want to be are those with all/or some combination of near-term profitability, relatively healthy cash levels, evidence of execution and brands that are selling through," Bennett said.

On top of that, the industry has been rocked by corporate scandals — including the growing of unlicensed cannabis — as well as lower-than-expected retail sales in Canada and legal states like California, disappointing earnings, and a spate of lung injuries associated with vaping

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Billionaire investor Ray Dalio says inviting conflict is one of his keys to success

Thu, 11/28/2019 - 10:50am

  • Billionaire investor Ray Dalio is one of the best-known and successful fund managers in the world. 
  • His firm, Bridgewater Associates, manages about $160 billion in assets and looks after roughly 350 clients.
  • During an episode of "Masters of Scale with Reid Hoffman," he told the LinkedIn founder that one of the keys to success is embracing and taking on conflict.
  • Dalio spoke about how conflict helped him build his company, and how disagreeing with others can eventually create better results. 
  • View Business Insider's homepage for more stories. 

Billionaire investor Ray Dalio is one of the best-known and successful fund managers in the world. 

His firm, Bridgewater Associates, manages about $160 billion in assets and looks after roughly 350 clients.

During a recent episode of "Masters of Scale with Reid Hoffman," he told the LinkedIn founder that one of the keys to success is embracing and taking on conflict. Dalio spoke about how conflict helped him build his company, and how disagreeing with others can eventually create better results. 

"How do I find the smartest people I know who disagree with me – and are willing to disagree with each other but who really care about your outcome? You learn a tremendous amount and that raises one's probability of being right," Dalio said on the podcast.

Bridgewater's boss blamed American schools for adults' fear of conflict.

"I think the problem of our whole educational system is that it teaches you to be right and you have a possessiveness to be right. And now it's embarrassing when you're wrong, it's embarrassing when you have a weakness," Dalio said to Hoffman.

"No, everybody's wrong at times. Everybody's got weaknesses. It's by understanding that and knowing how to deal with it well, individually as well as collectively, that one can be successful."

Hoffman, who recently interviewed LinkedIn's CEO Jeff Weiner, said he invited Dalio on his podcast because of his famous principles. One of those is how Dalio invites conflict.

He told Hoffman that he often thrashes ideas out with others, being "radically truthful." Although it can be awkward, he said, it also leads to better results because different ideas are heard, put forward, and implemented that wouldn't be otherwise.

"Really the key to success is you don't have to do everything yourself," Dalio said to Hoffman.

"You don't have to say, 'I'm the guy who came up with the idea,' and be possessive about that," he continued. "You just want the best idea wherever it comes from. And you want to know that, 'Oh, I've got these weaknesses so I can work with these people who have this strength.'"

Dalio also delved into the challenges of encouraging conflict and extreme honesty in a workplace. He told Hoffman about a testing episode when he reviewed his colleagues and they reviewed him.

"The people I worked with said to me that some of this radical transparency and this radical truthfulness is hurting morale, people are feeling bummed out about it," he said. "These good friends, who also I'm working with, took me out to dinner and then we talked about that."

"I was kind of caught in this dilemma," Dalio continued. "Should I not let them know what I really think? Should we behave differently? And that to me looked like slipping back into that other way of being. That sticks in my mind as a very difficult moment."

He invited his colleagues to help him find a solution to the problem.

"Look, I don't want to do this," he told them. "I don't want to make you feel bad. So what should we do about it? Do you not want me to tell you what I really think? Do you want to be inhibited from telling me what you really think?"

Dalio said these questions allowed him and his colleagues to engage their "cerebral minds" rather than "emotional minds," because ultimately they knew the process was beneficial even though they didn't feel great about it.

They shifted their focus to identifying ways to handle emotional difficulties, rather than putting a stop to being radically truthful and transparent.

This approach invites conflict without hurting people's feelings, Dalio said. The billionaire now abides by the principle that whenever he disagrees with someone, he pauses the conversation and establishes rules and protocols about how they behave to one another, allowing them to continue their conflict in a mutually agreed way.

At Bridgewater, Dalio says, "We have a two-minute rule, we have mediators, we do certain things to have the protocols to be able to have that disagreement and then to go beyond that disagreement. And also to show that failure or being wrong is not any way bad."

"You want to learn from it," he added.

Overall the billionaire's advice is to: "Relish the conflict, to have curiosity be a motivator."

"If you're seeing something different than I'm seeing, one of us is wrong and I don't know who that might be. Maybe it's me," he said.

For more from Reid Hoffman and Ray Dalio — including their thoughts on AI, which led to a heated discussion — listen to the podcast here.  

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I pay over $4,000 in credit card annual fees, but I'm happy to. Here's why it makes sense for me.

Thu, 11/28/2019 - 10:47am

  • I pay over $4,000 in credit card annual fees. The costs add up quickly with cards like the Platinum Card® from American Express, the Chase Sapphire Reserve, and the Citi Prestige® Card.
  • I travel about eight months out of the year, so I need credit cards that offer strong travel coverage to protect me if something goes wrong, and valuable benefits and rewards to improve my experience on the road.
  • You may not need every single one of these cards, especially if you don't travel very often, but make sure the ones you do have provide the best set of perks and coverages. For example, if you're a frequent Hilton guest, the Hilton Honors Aspire American Express Card could make your life easier with benefits like free elite status.
  • Read more personal finance coverage.

I pay a lot in credit card annual fees — more than $4,000 per year in total. That may seem like an absurd amount, but I get a ton of benefits and value out of my credit cards. Plus, I spend about eight months out of the year traveling internationally, so it's not hard for me to take advantage of the travel perks my cards offer. 

Here are the details of my cards, their annual fees, and why I'm happy to pay them — in approximate order of how important the cards are to me and which benefits justify me keeping the card. While I do have some cards without annual fees that I love, those will not be included here.

Read more: The best no-annual-fee credit cards of 2019

Keep in mind that we're focusing on the rewards and perks that make these credit cards great options, not things like interest rates and late fees, which can far outweigh the value of any rewards.

When you're working to earn credit card rewards, it's important to practice financial discipline, like paying your balances off in full each month, making payments on time, and not spending more than you can afford to pay back. Basically, treat your credit card like a debit card.

While some cards may have overlapping benefits, once I've mentioned a benefit offered by one card (e.g., Priority Pass lounge access), that benefit will not weigh into whether or not I keep a card that is lower down on my list. I have a few cards that charge annual fees that are no longer available for new applications, so those have not been included in this analysis.

I'm splitting my cards into two categories: my "spending cards" and my "holding cards." Some of my cards have benefits like an annual free night reward that make it worth it for me to keep them, but not generally spend money on, while other cards offer great spending benefits as well, such as strong bonus rewards. 

Here's why it makes sense for me to spend over $4,000 per year on credit card annual fees.

My spending cards Chase Sapphire Reserve

Annual fee: $450

This is my most important credit card. It offers a $300 annual travel credit each year, which effectively brings the annual fee down to $150. And it offers up to a $100 Global Entry fee credit every four years. 

Since Global Entry is valid for five years, this benefit is effectively worth $20 per year, further reducing the annual fee to $130. For that $130, I earn 3x points on travel (and dining purchases, but I use a different card for dining), Priority Pass lounge access, trip delay and cancellation insurance coverage, lost and delayed baggage insurance coverage, and primary car rental insurance.

Read more: Chase Sapphire Reserve card review

The Platinum Card from American Express

Annual fee: $550

Even though the Amex Platinum has a whopper of an annual fee, it's still on my keep list, at least for now. This card offers up to $200 in airline fee credits and up to $200 in Uber credits each year. While I would rather have that money in the form of actual cash, I do not have a problem using both of those credits, effectively bringing the annual fee for this card down to $150 for me. For that $150, I gain access to American Express Centurion Lounges, which I use at least a few times per year. When the new Denver location opens next year, it's a benefit I will use very regularly.

Additionally, I have the ability to earn 5x points for airline bookings made with the airline or at Amex Travel. I don't use this card to book airfare for myself because I prefer to sacrifice the extra 2 points per dollar and book with my Sapphire Reserve in exchange for travel insurance, but I do book flights for other people quite often, and the ability to earn these extra 2 points per dollar works out great then! I estimate that I earn 12,000 to 15,000 points per year from these 2 extra points per dollar by booking flights for other people.

Read more: Amex Platinum review — $2,000 of value in my first year, despite the $550 annual fee

Citi Prestige® Card

Annual fee: $495

Even though Citi recently cut many travel coverage benefits and added limitations to the 4th Night Free benefit for hotel stays benefit, the Citi Prestige is still in my wallet for three main reasons.

First, this card offers a $250 annual travel credit, which effectively brings the annual fee down to $245. It also earns 5x points on dining purchases, and I eat out a lot. This is two points more than the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers per dollar and I estimate that this earns me an extra 12,000 to 15,000 points per year, which I value around $200-$250.

Finally, while the 4th Night Free at hotels benefit is not as valuable as it once was (it's now limited to two uses per year), I still will have no problem using it once or twice per year. Conservatively, this will save me $200 per year. And as a bonus feature that I hope I'll never have to use, the Citi Prestige offers cell phone insurance when you pay your cell phone bill with the card.

Read more: 4 credit cards that insure your cell phone to pay for repairs or replacement

United Club Card

Annual fee: $450

I don't spend on this card too often, but every once in a while its 1.5 miles per dollar comes in handy. But the main reason I keep this card is that it gets me access to United Club airport lounges.

Since Denver is my home airport and a United hub, United Club access comes in handy. Next year when the Centurion Lounge opens, keeping this card may no longer make sense, but for now, it's the cheapest way into United lounges.

My "holding" cards The Business Platinum® Card from American Express

Annual fee: $595

These annual fees just keep going up, and to be completely honest I'm not sure that I'll keep my Business Platinum  when the annual fee comes due again. But for right now it's worth it for me for one main reason: the year of Platinum Global Access WeWork membership. 

Since I work remotely, the ability to access coworking spaces around the world is incredibly valuable to me, and getting a year-long WeWork membership for only $595 is a steal. (It's available for a year for cardholders who enroll by December 31, 2019.) Additionally, the Business Platinum Card offers up to $200 in airline fee credits and up to $200 in Dell credits each year.

Read more: The best small-business credit cards

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

Annual fee: $450

This card offers four standout benefits: a free weekend night at a Hilton hotel, complimentary top-tier Hilton Diamond status (which includes free breakfast at Hilton hotels), up to a $250 Hilton resort credit each year, and up to a $250 airline fee credit.

After considering the resort credit, the annual fee for this card is brought down to effectively $200, and if we conservatively value the free night certificate at $100, the annual fee comes down to only $100. And there's still the $250 airline fee credit, so the Aspire card is a complete no-brainer for me! Complimentary Hilton Diamond status is just the icing on the cake.

Read more: Hilton Honors Aspire review — why I willingly pay the $450 annual fee

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card

Annual fee: $450

You read that right: yet another card with a $450 annual fee. But this one makes sense for me too: Each year, I get a $300 Marriott statement credit and a free night at a Marriott hotel that costs up to 50,000 points. I stay at Marriott hotels pretty regularly, enough to qualify for Platinum status, so the $300 credit is easy to use. I can easily get $100 to $150 in value from the free night certificate, and often much more (this year, it was almost $400!).

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card

Annual fee: $95

Another Marriott card, and for one reason only: the free night certificate. The free night certificate from this card is worth up to 35,000 points, and it's not a problem at all for me to find a use for it where I'm getting more than $95 in value.

Read more: The best hotel credit cards

IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card

Annual fee: $89

Each year, I earn a certificate valid for a hotel night costing up to 40,000 points. It's not uncommon for me to need a hotel stay, and it's a pretty good deal to effectively stay for a night for $89.

Read more: IHG Rewards Club Premier card review — one of the most underrated hotel credit cards

World of Hyatt Credit Card

Annual fee: $95

The World of Hyatt Credit Card offers a free night certificate each year for a Category 1-4 Hyatt hotel. Just like with the other hotel cards, it's easy to cover the cost of the annual fee with this card.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card

Annual fee: $149

I just upgraded my Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card to the Southwest Priority Credit Card. This card offers 7,500 bonus points each year on the account anniversary (worth around $90) and a $75 Southwest travel credit each year. These two benefits alone make this card break even for me (I always fly Southwest at least once per year), and it also offers four upgraded boarding passes per year.

Radisson Rewards Premier Visa Signature Card

Annual fee: $75

Similar, but not the same as the other hotel cards listed here, I earn 40,000 points each year when I renew my card. I can use those points for multiple hotel nights or I can save them up from year to year and redeem for a hotel costing more than 40,000 points. I like the flexibility this gives me, and I will gladly pay $75 to essentially buy 40,000 points.

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5 ways to be free of credit-card debt by the end of the year

Thu, 11/28/2019 - 10:15am

Americans of all ages are mired in credit-card debt

Nearly half of Gen Xers are more focused on paying off debt than saving for retirement right now, while one in four millennials say credit cards are their main source of debt, not student loans.

Having credit-card debt isn't always a sign of irresponsible spending habits. Unexpected expenses crop up for everyone and sometimes credit can seem like the only lifeline.

The good news is that credit-card debt isn't a financial death sentence. But, the sooner you pay it off, the sooner you can improve your credit and put your hard-earned dollars toward more exciting goals.

Here are five strategies for getting out from under debt quickly.

1. Ask for a lower interest rate

Most people don't know you can call your credit-card issuer to ask for a reduced APR (annual percentage rate), which can make a difference of hundreds of dollars in interest payments. Eight in 10 credit-card holders who asked for a lower interest rate in the past year were granted one, according to a survey from CompareCards.com. The average reduction was six percentage points.

2. Double your minimum payment

Paying the minimum payment on your credit-card won't make any significant dent in your total debt load. If your main objective is paying off your debt as fast as possible, concentrate any extra funds you have left after covering your non-negotiable expenses (namely, housing and food) to this payment. Start small and make a goal to double your minimum payment and go from there.

3. Open a balance transfer card

If you have debt on multiple credit cards, consider consolidating your balances into one so you can make a single monthly payment.

A balance transfer card allows borrowers to transfer their balances onto a new credit card, typically with a 0% interest rate for an introductory period of time. If you're able to pay off your debt within the promotional period at a 0% interest rate, you have the potential to save a lot of money on interest. Note that you'll be responsible for paying a transfer fee between 3% and 5% of the total balance.

4. Take out a personal loan

With today's low interest rates, it's also a good time to consolidate with a personal loan. This strategy may seem counterintuitive at first: Why take out another line of credit to pay of an existing line of credit? Because personal-loan interest rates can be as low as 6% to 7%, compared to 17% to 24% on a credit card.

A personal loan will give you quick access to cash, which you can put directly toward your outstanding balances. After that, you'll have one fixed monthly payment to repay your loan. You can find personal loans easily online through lenders like SoFi or loan comparison sites like Credible.

5. Tackle the most expensive debt first

If you don't want to consolidate your balances or take on another line of credit, focusing on paying off the most expensive debt first — the balance with the highest interest rate — can speed up the entire repayment process as you save money on interest (experts call this the debt avalanche method).

Even an extra $100 a month can make a huge difference, shaving months or even years off your repayment period.

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'Get s--- done': Sources describe Facebook crypto exec David Marcus as visionary and ruthlessly focused (FB)

Thu, 11/28/2019 - 10:00am

  • David Marcus is the executive leading Facebook's wildly ambitious plan to build a new digital currency.
  • Business Insider spoke to former colleagues of Marcus' to understand what drives the man at the heart of Facebook's most controversial project yet.
  • Sources described the 46-year-old, French-born exec as intensely product-focused, ruthlessly focused, and unafraid to talk in visionary terms.
  • The serial entrepreneur views the late Apple cofounder Steve Jobs as a hero.
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories.

After PayPal acquired David Marcus' startup in 2011, a three-letter word — "GSD" — started appearing on signs in company conference rooms.

It was an acronym that represented a mission statement of the ambitious payments executive: "Get shit done."

Nearly a decade later, Marcus is now at the helm of a wildly ambitious project from Facebook to build a new digital currency called Libra — battling critics and fending off deeply skeptical regulators as he attempts to kickstart a project with potentially global implications.

Business Insider spoke to former coworkers of Marcus, to learn more about the man behind Facebook's most audacious project in years, what he's like as a leader, and how his personal attributes might shape the outcome of Libra.

They described a man who is intensely product-focused, unafraid to talk in visionary terms, and ruthlessly focused on trying to "get shit done."

Serial entrepreneur-turned-in-house exec

Marcus, 46, is a serial entrepreneur. 

Back in 1996, after dropping out of college he founded retail communications provider GTN Telecom, which he ran for four years. It was acquired by World Access in 2000, and he immediately kicked off his next venture — Echovox, which built an early form of mobile payments using SMS billing.

It too, was ultimately acquired, and in 2008 he launched his third act: Zong. 

Zong also helped build mobile payments, and — there's starting to be a pattern here — it ended up getting acquired, this time by PayPal, three and a half years after launch.

At PayPal, though, he hung around for a few years, rising from a mobile executive to eventually become president of the multi-billion-dollar payments firm. 

In 2014, though, Facebook came knocking. He joined as vice president of messaging products, responsible for building out Messenger from a dime-a-dozen messaging app into a fully fledged app, a position he held for almost four years before diving headfirst into blockchain as the head of Facebook's experimental new unit.

Today, as head of Calibra, he effectively runs a company-within-a-company, building a product from the ground-up that has a radically different focus to some of Facebook's traditional areas of expertise.

A product-first entrepreneur styled after Steve Jobs

David Marcus has a professional hero that points to his aspirations for blockchain technology: Steve Jobs.

"David was a big Steve Jobs fan, he seemed to want to emulate people like Jobs in terms of having ubiquitous product accolade and conformity," said Colin Walsh, who worked alongside Marcus as a strategic account executive at Zong and later PayPal.

The executive is obsessive about how products look and work, and that focus could bode well for the cryptocurrency space, which has struggled to achieve any meaningful consumer usage, despite all the buzz. "It's extremely hard to use. Look at most of the apps based on crypto today ... designed for engineers," said Upwork CEO Stephane Kasriel, who worked with Marcus at Zong and PayPal and still counts him as a friend.

"I think there's one thing David does extremely well ... extremely user experience-centric" design.

Outside of work, the France-born, Switzerland-raised entrepreneur is passionate about motorbikes and skiing.

He has successively landed at bigger and bigger platforms

Marcus has been involved with cryptocurrencies for at least the best part of a decade. He was one of a small group of Silicon Valley tech and fintech figures — early Facebook employee turned investor Chamath Palihapitiya is also among them — who dabbled in bitcoin fairly early. He first sent Kasriel, the Upwork CEO, a bitcoin about eight years ago, he remembered.

Since then, his involvement has grown more serious, and in December of 2017, he joined the board of high-profile blockchain firm Coinbase, in a nod to his future calling. (He stepped down eight months later, citing his work for the then-nascent Facebook blockchain group).

His interest in blockchain is only fitting, given what former colleagues described as a focus on ambitious projects and bold dreams.

"David wants to achieve big, life-changing developments in technology," Walsh said. "As long as I knew him, that is his motivation in business."

"He cares deeply about the details, he was on the phone with engineers" to talk about individual product changes, Kasriel said — but he's "also a visionary, he has big dreams ... [and] talks about them in a very compelling" manner.

Throughout Marcus career trajectory, he has successively landed at bigger and bigger platforms to try and achieve his goals, learning how to manage different team sizes and "radically different environments" along the way.

Much of the Calibra team are veterans from Zong and PayPal, Kasriel points out: "He's managed to convince people from amazing companies" to sign up for his vision.

"He does not settle for whatever he's inherited"

This lofty demeanor does not obscure another side to Marcus: A relentless focus on execution.

PayPal, by the time of the Zong acquisition, "had become a slow moving company," Kasriel said. Marcus came in and shook things up immediately — driving its shift to mobile, and ultimately laying the groundwork for a company with a market cap today of $126 billion.

The three-letter "mantra" displayed on signs served as a constant reminder of Marcus' approach. 

"He does not settle for whatever he's inherited," said Kasriel.

Walsh said: "David is a serious business person but does have a lighter side, a sense of humor and empathy to a degree, but is ultimately a very focused and determined individual who will not let obstacles impede the outcomes he wishes to achieve."

So after five years at Facebook, might David Marcus one day want to be CEO again, and have another chance to truly run the show?

"I think you'd have to ask him," Kasriel demurs. "But given what he's trying to do, you need to do it in a place that has scale ... a company that already has billions of online users."

Do you work at Facebook? Contact this reporter via encrypted messaging app Signal at +1 (650) 636-6268 using a non-work phone, email at rprice@businessinsider.com, Telegram or WeChat at robaeprice, or Twitter DM at @robaeprice. (PR pitches by email only, please.)

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UPS workers allegedly trafficked 1,000s of pounds of drugs and fake vape pens across the country

Thu, 11/28/2019 - 9:56am

  • United Parcel Service workers allegedly helped to import and traffic thousands of pounds of drugs and fake vape pens across the country during the past decade, the Washington Post reported, citing police sources.
  • The group of UPS employees allegedly ensured the contraband safely passed through the mail carrier's trucking and delivery systems, evading security protocols and law enforcement, officials told the Post.
  • "They've been doing it for so long that they were truly comfortable that they were never going to get caught," a police sergeant told the Post.
  • Police seized a boat, a Corvette, and a Range Rover during one raid, the Post reported. They also found 50,000 counterfeit THC vaping pens in a storage locker, as well as cash, weed, and ledgers hidden under a Jacuzzi. 
  • View Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

A pack of United Parcel Service workers allegedly helped to import and traffic thousands of pounds of drugs and fake vape pens across the country during the past decade, the Washington Post reported, citing police sources.

The UPS employees allegedly used their knowledge of the mail carrier's inner workings to ensure the contraband, packed in standard cardboard boxes, passed through its trucking and delivery systems and evaded security protocols and law enforcement, officials told the Post.

The packages — containing weed, vape pens, or more lucrative narcotics — were transported eastward from a distribution facility in Tucson, Arizona. Large amounts of cash were shipped back to the city, authorities told the Wall Street Journal. The alleged perpetrators splurged their profits on lavish properties, vacations, and vehicles, detectives told the Post.

Local investigators tracked the accused ringleader, Mario Barcelo — a 20-year veteran of UPS and a dispatch supervisor in Tucson — for at least 10 years, the Post reported. Barcelo abused his position to bypass security measures and ensure the drugs were loaded onto the right trucks and delivered on time and without interference, authorities told the newspaper. He was arrested earlier this month.

"He's been able to provide this service to drug traffickers without being detected both internally and externally by law enforcement for years," William Kaderly, a Tucson police sergeant, told the Post. "They've been doing it for so long that they were truly comfortable that they were never going to get caught."

Officials arrested another UPS supervisor and two company drivers this month, charging them with money laundering, drug possession, and distribution, the Post reported. Seven other people are facing charges for allegedly assisting with shipments and running stash houses, the newspaper said.

A UPS spokesperson told the Journal that the delivery giant is aware of the arrests and cooperating with law enforcement, but declined to comment further given the investigation is ongoing. UPS didn't immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.

The task force broke the case through a combination of wiretapping, going undercover as drug traffickers, organizing shipments of fake cocaine and cash, and placing GPS devices inside the boxes to track them from the alleged conspirators' homes to the UPS hub then out onto the road, the Post reported.

Their efforts led them to Raul Garcia Cordova, who was arrested last week on more than a dozen charges, the Post said.

Police raided Cordova's mansion, seizing a boat, a Corvette, and a Range Rover, the Post reported. They also found 50,000 counterfeit THC vaping pens in a storage locker, as well as cash, weed, and ledgers hidden under a Jacuzzi. Recent raids have seized other narcotics and drug-making equipment, the Journal said.

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The Priority Pass program gets you access to more than 1,200 airport lounges, and you can get a free membership with the right credit card

Thu, 11/28/2019 - 9:30am

If you've ever spent a prolonged amount of time near a departure gate, you're probably familiar with just how chaotic an airport terminal can be. From flustered travelers running around to crying babies to limited seating, it can make for a very unpleasant experience.

That's where airport lounges like those in the Priority Pass network come in. You can get free Priority Pass access from a few different credit cards and use it to escape the madness in favor of a quiet space, free food, and drinks. The Priority Pass program also includes select restaurants and cafes at airports, and members can get up to $30 per person in free food and drink.

Below is a breakdown of the Priority Pass program and how you can get access through select credit cards.

Keep in mind that we're focusing on the rewards and perks that make these credit cards great options, not things like interest rates and late fees, which will far outweigh the value of any points or miles. It's important to practice financial discipline when using credit cards by paying your balances in full each month, making payments on time, and only spending what you can afford to pay back. 

What is Priority Pass?

Priority Pass is a network of more than 1,200 airport lounges, restaurants, and cafes worldwide. You'll find that Priority Pass has more lounges internationally than it does in the US, so having a Priority Pass membership can come in especially handy when you travel abroad.

Priority Pass lounges

The airport lounges in the Priority Pass program offer a comfortable place to relax before a flight, but the specific amenities will vary from location to location, and the lounges outside of US airports are generally much nicer (and plentiful) than the ones you'll find stateside.

Keep in mind that Priority Pass reserves the right to deny access to its lounges if they are overcrowded. Again, this is usually more of an issue in the US, where there are more limited Priority Pass lounge locations, than it is abroad.

Priority Pass restaurants and cafes

In addition to more than 1,200 airport lounges worldwide, the Priority Pass program includes restaurants and cafes at airports such as Los Angeles (LAX) and St. Louis (STL). Priority Pass members can get $28 to $30 of free food and drink at participating restaurants.

Business Insider's Sarah Silbert took advantage of this perk in Portland (PDX) and got a full breakfast and coffee, plus some snacks for the plane. It's a great way to avoid paying the high mark-up for a meal at the airport. Travel website The Points Guy has a list of all the Priority Pass airport lounge locations in the US.

Priority Pass membership options

There are three Priority Pass membership tiers:

  • Standard membership — costs $99 per year and enables you to buy lounge passes for $32 per visit
  • Standard Plus — costs $299 per year and gets you 10 free visits
  • Prestige membership — costs $429 per year and includes unlimited free visits to Priority Pass lounges

All of these membership tiers allow you to purchase guest passes for $32 per person.

Alternatively, you can get Priority Pass membership through several rewards credit cards. A Priority Pass membership that you can from a credit card is called Priority Pass Select — it's a different type of membership than what you get by purchasing it directly from Priority Pass. The benefit is that it's completely free, and with some credit cards you even get free guest access, making it a much better deal the publicly available membership plans. 

Which credit cards offer Priority Pass membership? The Platinum Card from American Express and the Business Platinum Card from American Express

The Platinum Card and Business Platinum Card from American Express both offer extensive lounge access, including the Priority Pass network. Cardholders and authorized users get Priority Pass Select membership with complimentary admission for up to two guests per visit. Additional guests beyond the two can be admitted for $32 per person.

The big caveat here is that American Express cardholders no longer get access to the restaurants and cafes that are part of the Priority Pass Lounge network. This is unfortunate because the program has some pretty nice restaurants that are now off-limits. But Platinum cardholders can take solace in their exclusive access to Centurion Lounges, The International American Express lounge network, and more.

Read more: Amex Platinum vs. Amex Business Platinum — which card is best?

Click here to learn more and apply for the Amex Platinum. Click here to learn more and apply for the Amex Business Platinum. Chase Sapphire Reserve

If American Express' exclusion of restaurants and cafes bothers you, you might want to opt for this card instead. Not only does the Sapphire Reserve card offer lots of great travel perks, but the Priority Pass Select membership doesn't exclude access to restaurants and cafes.

For just $75, you can add an authorized user to your Sapphire Reserve card, and this qualifies for the same membership perks. That includes bringing up to two guests into the lounge per visit. Any guests beyond this number can enter at a discounted rate of $27 per person. 

Read more: Chase Sapphire Reserve review

Click here to learn more and apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Citi Prestige® Card

The Citi Prestige Card's Priority Pass Select membership is unique in that it extends access to immediate family or up to two guests. Family is defined as a spouse, domestic partner and/or children under 18. If you want to bring in additional guests beyond this allowance, you can do so for $27 per person.

Read more: The Citi Prestige just got a heavier metal design

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

With premium benefits to boot, the Hilton Aspire is one of the best hotel credit cards out there. Cardholders get free top-tier Diamond status with Hilton, up to $250 Hilton in resort credits each year, up to $250 in airline fee credits each year, up to a $100 Hilton property credit on two-night stays, an annual free weekend night and more.

But perks don't extend to just hotel stays. Hilton Aspire cardholders also receive Priority Pass Select membership and guest privileges (up to two per visit). As this is an American Express Card, access to restaurants and cafes is unfortunately restricted. However, with all the other benefits this card has to offer, I can personally overlook this flaw.

Read more: Hilton Aspire Amex card review

Click here to learn more and apply for the Hilton Honors Aspire card. Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card

If you're looking for great travel perks for a lower ($95) annual fee, the Hilton Honors Surpass card is a great alternative to the Aspire card.

Hilton Surpass cardholders receive 10 free Priority Pass lounge visits every year. Not as good as unlimited visits, but no bad considering you're paying a lower annual fee for this card and still getting almost one lounge visit per month out of it.

Click here to learn more and apply for the Hilton Honors Surpass card.

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FDR was roasted and compared to Hitler for moving Thanksgiving to stretch out a truncated holiday shopping season that was even shorter than the one we're facing in 2019

Thu, 11/28/2019 - 9:17am

  • Thanksgiving falls on November 28 this year, which means that the holiday shopping season will be shorter than usual.
  • Back in 1939, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt faced a similarly compressed holiday season.
  • To assuage the fears of retail lobbyists, FDR moved Thanksgiving forward a week that year.
  • The change divided the country, with 16 states refusing to move up the date of the holiday.
  • Thanksgiving remained an issue as hot as a bowl of scalding mashed potatoes until the president admitted defeat in 1941.
  • That same year, Congress resolved to declare that Thanksgiving would be celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November.
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Thanks to an unusually late Thanksgiving, the year 2019 is closing out with a shortened holiday shopping season. Retailers in the United States rely upon the flurry of spending that traditionally occurs between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so this simple quirk of the calendar could end up wreaking havoc on the whole industry.

It wouldn't be the first time, either. Some serious holiday meddling on the part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt 80 years ago actually kicked off a controversy that would prompt Congress to permanently fix Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November. Roosevelt's efforts to elongate a similarly stubby shopping season resulted in a holiday — and a country — more thoroughly split than a yanked-apart wishbone.

The trouble really began under an earlier administration, when President Abraham Lincoln designated the last Thursday of November as Thanksgiving. Jump ahead nearly four score years later, and Lincoln's tradition was giving the Retail Dry Goods Association a collective stress headache. The calendar year of 1939 simply wasn't sales-friendly. Thanksgiving was set to take place on November 30, the last possible day it could fall.

Worried about the implications for retail sales, RDGA general manager Lew Hahn took his case to Secretary of Commerce Harry Hopkins, author Melanie Kirkpatrick writes in the book "Thanksgiving: The Holiday at the Heart of the American Experience." Hahn asked the administration to lengthen the shopping season by pushing Thanksgiving a week earlier. After all, the businesses he represented had only emerged from the Great Depression a few years prior. 

This wasn't the first time someone in the business world had advocated pulling a Thanksgiving switcheroo, either. Back in 1933, the Downtown Association of Los Angeles penned a letter to the White House noting that, "the Thanksgiving to Christmas period is the busiest retail period of the whole year."

And it wasn't as if retailers could simply, say, inundate their stores with holiday merchandise a bit early. To put the Christmas cart before the Thanksgiving horse would have been considered baffling and tacky in the 1930s. The only reprieve for retail would be to break with Lincoln's precedent.

An artificial 'Franksgiving'

FDR apparently agreed with Hahn and Hopkins, proclaiming on October 31 that "a day of general thanksgiving" would be celebrated on November 23, the second to last Thursday in the month.

Well, that announcement went over about as well as a scorched turkey. Thousands of citizens wrote to the White House in protest, many decrying November 23 as an artificial "Franksgiving." 

"This country is not entirely money-minded, we need a certain amount of idealism and sentiment to keep up the morale of our people, and you would even take that from us," two anti-Franksgiving partisans from South Dakota wrote.

Others complained about the eleventh-hour nature of the decision, noting that FDR's interference would disrupt everything from football games to travel plans. Kirkpatrick writes that some retailers, especially smaller outfits, even felt the shorter shopping season would be a boon to their businesses.

The president's political rivals also pounced. Alf Landon, the Republican presidential candidate whom FDR trounced in 1936, went as far as comparing FDR to Adolf Hitler over the move. Time quoted Landon as saying that FDR was "springing" the decision "upon an unprepared country."

A 1939 Gallup poll found that 62% of respondents disapproved of "Franksgiving." And, while most governors moved Thanksgiving a week ahead, 16 states refused to acquiesce to FDR's new holiday plans. The festive stalemate drew out for two years.

Then, in 1941, FDR relented. The New York Times reported that, after discovering that "Franksgiving" failed to "boom trade" as much as he hoped, the president announced that the holiday would revert to its traditional spot in the month. That same year, a joint resolution from Congress cementing the fourth Thursday in November as the official date of Thanksgiving made it to FDR's desk. The president signed the bill into law on the day after Christmas that year.

So if you're feeling stressed as you rush about buying gifts this holiday season, think about the bloodless civil war waged over "Franksgiving," and remember that things could be far worse.

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